A uniform appearance, consistent mouthfeel and ease of processing are hallmarks of a well-stabilized beverage. Health-related trends, which promote vitamin and mineral fortification and carbohydrate or fat reduction, can cause discord in the harmony of the above-mentioned ideals. Although single-ingredient stabilizers are used to augment each of these traits, it is the synergy between several gums that builds a suitable foundation.

For example, Gelstar[r] stabilizer, a newly formulated stabilizer from FMC BioPolymer (Philadelphia), utilizes the functionality of specific hydrocolloids to achieve optimum stability in a reduced-sugar beverage. This new stabilizer functions to improve the rheological properties, texture, mouthfeel and quality of the beverage over the length of the product's shelflife, particularly when sugar and fat solids are reduced. Once activated, the ingredient provides both a soluble and insoluble matrix that effectively suspends protein, calcium, cocoa and vitamins, and prevents fat/oil separation in the emulsion.

A dramatic change in mouthfeel and texture are evident when sugar is removed or reduced from beverages. “We are able to tailor our blends into enhancing the stability during processing and shelflife, while adding back some of the creaminess and body that sugar provides in a beverage,” says Sara Carlberg, an FMC food technologist.

Single-ingredient stabilizers do not provide long-term stability and mouthfeel in UHT-processed, reduced-sugar beverages. They may only result in providing a short-term fix. Repeated trial studies by Carlberg have shown that combinations of specific hydrocolloids are required to obtain optimum results in reduced-sugar systems.

The interaction between various hydrocolloids greatly enhances the functionality of dairy-based systems. Gelstar stabilizer is specifically designed to maintain the quality and texture of beverages over a range of processing conditions and use levels, thereby minimizing the effect of overstabilization.

“Some manufacturers might use two to four different ingredients and/or hydrocolloids to try and achieve stability in a refrigerated product, which may still result in undesirable sedimentation issues,” says George Ayling, technology manager at FMC. “Increasing any single gum component does not necessarily mean increased stability. You can increase your gum level to a point where the texture and body you desire is lost and destabilization occurs due to overstabilization.”

“An advantage of the stabilizer is that it is forgiving of temperature,” says Carlberg. It provides optimum functionality in a broad range of processing and storage conditions. The network produced through the activation of Gelstar stabilizer provides manufacturers with a system that utilizes the combination of specific hydrocolloids to help achieve their cost-in-use goals.

“Additionally, the stabilizer mimics the textural properties of a higher-fat, dairy-based system and excels when it is used to improve the rheology of beverages,” says Ayling. “Without changing the existing processing conditions of milk-based beverages, we are able to provide a stabilizer that improves functionality, creaminess and stability,” continues Carlberg.

Maintaining consistent flow and stability during processing is achieved due to the thixotropic and pseudoplastic nature of the Gelstar stabilizer. These properties are critical to manufacturers and consumers alike--manufacturers realize ease of processing, and consumers enjoy a smooth, free-flowing beverage that not only tastes good but is esthetically pleasing as well.

For more information: FMC Biopolymer, Technical Service Department, 800-526-3649, www.fmcbiopolymer.com